'The Beaverton': Inside the Website and Show That Shakes Up Canadian Satire
Published Nov 01, 2017If you've watched episodes of Canada's most incisive news satire show, The Beaverton, you might have noticed a curious proclamation for a TV program to make, during the end credits: "Inspired by the website www.thebeaverton.com."
"It was just a loose collection of kids really, looking back on it," says Luke Gordon Field, the site's creator and series showrunner. "A bunch of comedians and former journalists and bored office workers who wanted to create and do something new and exciting, having grown up as fans of The Onion and The Daily Show and all the other great satirical news out there. We wanted to make something of our own and we just started doing it."
In short order The Beaverton has established itself as a joke-dense source for news-of-the-day satire. What began as a sharp website full of surreal, biting articles about national and world events has spawned a weekly TV show, whose second season airs on the Comedy Network, CTV, and CraveTV in Canada, beginning November 1.
There's also a new book called The Beaverton Presents: Glorious and/or Free – The
For Field, a lawyer-turned-standup, a multimedia Beaverton enterprise is the culmination of a Canadian dream to offer a younger generation of consumers and comedy fans their own place within the cultural landscape.
"The fundamental thing that was missing for us when we started the website was the lack of a satirical online voice," he says. "I mean there were satirical TV shows in Canada — primarily the CBC shows The Rick Mercer Report and This Hour Has 22 Minutes. They're primarily aimed at an older audience and, when they were talking to politicians and talking about politicians, they often came at things from the perspective of 'Well, at the end of the day, we're all on the same side, the same team, and we joke and you make laws, but we're all good guys, and at the end of the day, we can put our arms around each other and have a beer and everything like that.'
"I do think things changed a little bit under the [former Conservative Prime Minister Stephen] Harper years, where it didn't feel like we were on the same side and there was an undercurrent of anger that I felt and I think a lot of people felt about some of the things he was doing, particularly towards the latter half of his term," Field explains. "And we wanted comedy that was a bit more angry and a lot more biting and sharper that would call things out, as we saw them, and not be afraid to say 'This is bad and we're going to find a funny way to point that out and at the end of the day, no we're not going to put our arms around you and go watch your band perform Steve.'"
Field adds that the lack of platforms and outlets for Canada's community of young, comedic talent, particularly in Toronto, also fuelled his desire to create something to showcase his colleagues. The Beaverton is framed as a faux news show with a strange cast of field correspondents and section experts. They each report back to a pair of oddly matched desk anchors played by Emma Hunter and Miguel Rivas, who each come from acting backgrounds but found their voices in comedy.
"I went to Queens and studied it properly — Ibsen and all that," Hunter says. "And then from there came to Toronto and probably got no work at all. I knew that there's got to be a back door into this whole thing and the backdoor, I think, is the basement of bars. Those little stages at Comedy Bar and Bad Dog [Theatre] and even the back of the Rivoli where you can kind of figure out what you do well and what you do badly.
Rivas too attended theatre and acting schools and assumed he'd follow that path to become a classically trained actor. Like Hunter, he discovered he'd often be waiting months between calls and auditions, which isn't the kind of thing the scratches your itch, as a performer.
"In Toronto, you find out that getting on stage in comedy is really easy," Rivas says. "I quickly found out that you could get onstage every single night if you wanted to and I'd get in front of people and do a variety of different types of performances."
Both were drawn to sketch and Hunter even honed a standup act, complete with impressions. Watching their dynamic on The Beaverton, which is at least a little oppositional, as Rivas plays a strange straight man to Hunter's unpredictably opinionated and odd wildcard, their chemistry is striking and it's clear they're drawing upon their considerable skillsets to perform these roles.
Like Field, Hunter and Rivas believe The Beaverton fills an important role for Canadians who have mostly looked to American and British voices for truly cutting satire. Things have changed because of The Beaverton.
"I did feel like we had these very pleasant, polite satirical news shows but that there was a place for something more brash and unapologetically strong," Hunter says. "That's where The Beaverton had a place.
"What I and other younger Canadians were feeling was, 'C'mon, let's put on our big boy pants, ruffle some feathers and get out there! We can take it!'"
Season two of The Beaverton airs on CTV, Comedy Network, and CraveTV beginning November 1.
Listen to interviews with Gordon, Hunter, and Rivas on Kreative Kontrol via iTunes or below: